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My Google Internship (goldsborough.me)
359 points by goldsborough on Dec 1, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 259 comments

I love reading accounts like this. As someone who had an internship in high school, I'm always happy to hear what other people's experiences were going into and out of the process. I think my immediate reaction is that Google creates an environment that simply doesn't exist at most other places.

I interned at two companies in the defense industry. You could argue that our experiences were different because of security, but I disagree. The environment you described sounds like an absolute heaven: you have challenging, fun work, and have extremely well placed and delivered benefits. At both of my internships, the problems were hard. They weren't particularly fun to solve so much as they "had" to be solved and I was the only one to solve them. I got similar rewarding experiences completing tasks, though everything I did had to be "on the clock." As soon as we stopped working, we were expected to stop billing or move to some other task.

The offices were dull, boring, and expensive to spend time in. Your internship had availability of food and technology that kept you happy. Neither of mine did this. At one internship, we had a free snack room. That's it. If we wanted to eat lunch at the cafeteria at my second internship, we could at great personal cost. We were stuck with "hand me down" hardware that was a menagerie of hardware pulled from random places throughout the building. If you were given a bad keyboard on day one, too bad -- it was yours forever.

I complain like this because you had the exact opposite of the experience I had. Your experience is an irregularity, at least compared to what I've seen. This all comes down to culture, I think. The Google corporate culture is modern, focused on employee happiness, and focused on diversity. Things like getting your own hardware choices and free food go a long way to adding goodwill, and failing to take basic measures like that shows what I consider to be a lack of caring.

I wish more companies would copy Google on how they treat their employees and interns. Even if it might seem a bit cheesy to go after the low hanging fruit, employee happiness goes a long way to building a thriving, mutually beneficial relationship between an employee and a company.

Seeing a post like this makes me feel like my internship hosts haven't cared in the slightest. That's pretty painful, if I'm brutally honest.

One one side: yes.

And BTW - this has nothing to do with defense industry, it's just 99% of business is like this.

Business could do a lot more to make a more fun environment.

On the other hand ...

Google is a 'de-facto' monopoly, and they print money. They are super, super rich, and literally have billions more than they know what to do with.

So it's easy to justify a lot of extra expenses. And these things can be expensive.

Lastly - let's not be so naive. Much of the reason many of these things are offered is so that you 'never have to leave the office'. 'Free lunch' was a cold, hard, Google style calculation: the time it took to 'drive to resto and back' was wasted time, it was cheaper to give people food than have them waste this time.

Years ago, my friend interviewed at Google, and they lauded all the 'free clothes' that you could take, which were often used 'the next day' as employees 'stayed the night'. Sleeping over at the office was a relatively common practice, and as such, there's going to arguably be some pressure to work insane hours. Which is completely against the law. We lambast conditions in factories in China, and just because Google workers earn a bit more does not mean that the practice is any less problematic, when the vast majority of the surpluses are going to 'the factory owners'.

> 'Free lunch' was a cold, hard, Google style calculation: the time it took to 'drive to resto and back' was wasted time, it was cheaper to give people food than have them waste this time.

No, it's not. If it was, all companies would do it. And they would probably just give away sandwiches and call it a day instead of setting up dozens of gourmet cafeterias with different themes and chefs at the helm throughout their campuses.

Google loses millions of dollars every day in free food.

Why do they do it? Because that's how the company started and even after the IPO and the accountability that came with it, the founders stuck with their decision to put the employees first and the shareholders second

"No, it's not. If it was, all companies would do it."

No, this is false.

Google employees productivity, as measured in earnings/capita, is significantly greater than most other companies.

Google does not 'lose money' on the policy, if it was a 'net loser', they would end it.

It's effectively part of the total incentive package.

If it costs them $20/day per person, that's an extra $4K/year per person, if it increases productivity by only 2% it's an obvious winner based on that easy calculation alone.

Google has billions of dollars they don't know what to do with, and their effective cost of capital is very low. Anything they can do to materially lift output - that doesn't cost zillions - is probably worth it.

It's absolutely untrue that the lunches are about saving time. Please note the work/life balance commentary in the article. You're jumping to high-minded ideological explanations that confirm your bias based on facts you've unilaterally created.

No, I'm 'jumping' to my memory, because I worked 5km from Google roughly 16 years ago when the practice started, and I remember specifically reading about how Google decided to introduce lunch, specifically, and it was a calculation. I wish I had the reference.

> Google is a 'de-facto' monopoly, and they print money. They are super, super rich, and literally have billions more than they know what to do with.

> So it's easy to justify a lot of extra expenses

I see how it can look like that from outside, but from within Google is pretty serious about expenses and costs. All the perks and benefits are an investment to acquire and retain the employees, and to allow them to be as productive as possible.

Remember as an example that Google stock doesn't give dividends: all profits are reinvested in the projects.

" Google is pretty serious about expenses and costs"

Which validates my point: the value of the 'free food' is a calculation. It's based on employee productivity gains, retainment etc.. If it wasn't an economic value-add, it would be canned.

"Google stock doesn't give dividends: all profits are reinvested in the projects"

Sorry to be picky but this statement is not true at all.

1) It does not matter whether a company pays dividends, or a company retains the earnings for shareholders. Economically - they are equivalent. In practice, companies get valued a little bit differently ... but financially they are equal.

2) A company that 'reinvests all profits in projects' is called a 'non profit' - and would mean a share price of $0. :) :) :)

The definition of retaining earnings is reinvesting profits in the company's projects; I'm not sure what made you think only non-profits do it. It's pretty common for companies that are growing. In any case, that was just one easy way to show you you're wrong in thinking this:

> [Google] literally have billions more than they know what to do with

Google knows exactly what to do with it, and from my understanding hasn't ran out of business ideas for that since its founding.

"The definition of retaining earnings is reinvesting profits in the company's projects;"

No, it's not.

More importantly - your statement that "Google re-invests all profits in projects" is definitely not true, moreover, it's relationship to 'dividends' is not relevant at all.

"Google knows exactly what to do with it, and from my understanding hasn't ran out of business ideas for that since its founding."

Again, not true.

That any company has such a large war chest is strong evidence that they have no clue how to spend it.

Yes - it's important to have a fund for acquisitions and to take on unforeseen threats, but it's generally accepted that near monopoly providers have this problem.

Microsoft had so much money relative to earnings at one point - that financial analysts started to treat it as a 'fund' as opposed to a product company - and use different metrics to understand it's efficiency.

These companies have very low capital efficiencies, and all that money is seen as a drag on many measures of efficiency, which is why they are strongly pushed to return the money to shareholder - who can put it to work more effectively elsewhere.

Google has absolutely no idea what to do with at least 1/2 of assets that it is sitting on, which is why they are sitting on them.

Put another way:

If Google did have amazing, high-ROI projects to invest in, they situation would be the opposite: they would be spending it all - and likely taking on debt (because it's very cheap right now) - which would be a way to leverage their 'amazing projects' quite dramatically and to make more money.

'High growth' companies should almost always be leveraging up, because that's how they can get the most out of whatever it is that they are doing. Same for companies that can forecast consistent returns.

If your 'business idea' is getting more ROI than your 'cost of capital' then the more you lever up, the more money you make.

But no. Google has nowhere to spend the money.

> Even if it might seem a bit cheesy to go after the low hanging fruit, employee happiness goes a long way to building a thriving, mutually beneficial relationship between an employee and a company.

This. While general funding (IT is a very well funded sector) also matters, most of this is cultural. As an anecdote, I interned in a place (not IT related) where we had to use our personal laptops and even pay for drinking water and toilet paper..

Laptops are expensive I undressed... But water and toilet paper are just common decency.

I bet you that they have red flags all over glassdoor?

I worked as a consultant briefly for someone who was all proud to say he'd become a millionaire by his 30th birthday by running a photocopying business that he'd built from nothing.

I discovered some of the secrets of his success - my favorite being that when me and the IT manager had to fly to their other office to do some network stuff, I was a consultant, so I got a hotel nearby. Poor IT manager had to sleep in the company owner's spare bedroom, with a 9pm curfew (because the owner had young children), and no alcohol.

> I wish more companies would copy Google on how they treat their employees and interns.

More companies would love to copy Google's position athwart a massive river of gold (advertising), soon to be two rivers (cloud).

I love reading accounts like this. It's fun and well written and I enjoy the photos too.

I work in a cube farm of grey cubes on boring LoB applications. I know I'll never be skilled enough (or, more correctly, I'll never be ambitious enough to become skilled enough) to work at Google et al but it's really fun to sample the experience from the outside. :)

Also to chime in with the other Googlers here: apply. Apply. Apply. Apply.

There is a lot of varied work going on internally at Google. As well as the hard-core, intense, "pure" software engineering work that everyone thinks about going on at Google (search, self-driving cars, android, machine learning etc etc), there is also a lot of ... how can I put this nicely? erm ... lets say "less-pure" software engineering going on.

The hiring-bar is understandably high for the pure software engineers, but there are other roles. I am not a "software engineer" at Google (I am in another "less-pure" engineering role in the same office that was in the pictures in the article) but I still spend all day every day coding using the same equipment, tools, technologies and infrastructure as the "pure" engineers and we all get the same perks. The difference is that my work is mostly internal-only and generally wont get used by our end-users. And even if you're not a coder, there are still lots of roles that require technical skills to help our customers sort out their own technical problems.

Pre-emptive answers to potential questions:

* I just applied from the website for a job that sounded like a reasonable fit (not referral, no prior contact). The recruiters took it from there. Prior experience was a few years at IBM and a CompSci degree.

* Perks are good but I still do 8:30 - 5 each day, sometimes I work from home if I am feeling lazy. In my London office some people stay late, but usually just because it is easier to schedule meetings with team members in the US (time overlaps etc)

I want to work with eager, intelligent people so please I really do encourage anyone reading this to go take a look and apply. https://www.google.com/about/careers/

Good luck!

Would you be able to give some examples of job titles for positions that you would consider "less-pure"?

Sure - Technical Solutions Engineer, Customer Solutions Enigneer, Web Solutions Engineer, Application Engineer, Developer Relations Engineer are a few off of the top of my head.

From a SWE that's worked a lot with DevRel: these guys do the Lord's work; I have them in a pedestal. Cloud without DevRel would be like a pharma company researching new drugs, but without doctors that know how to diagnose patients and choose and explain the appropriate combination of treatments.

And they're also the ones that get to appear in most dev tutorial videos!

Why would you tells someone on HN who is probably a software engineer to apply to google for non software engineer roles?

I didn't read the comment as such. Comment author assumes (correctly I'm sure) that some people reading feel like they aren't good enough to work at Google because they aren't hardcore software engineers. The point was you can still code and get the perks even if you aren't that, you just won't be on the self driving cars or customer facing projects.

The point I was trying to make is that you do not need to be at the absolute top-end of software engineers to apply for and work at Google.

If you are, then great! But if you are not the very best-of-the-best that is fine as there are still options for you to work at Google and write code for a living, just you probably wont be working on the sexiest world-changing products.

What are LoB applications?

I think you suffer from an extreme case of imposter syndrome. Looking through your comment history, I conclude you are more than capable of working there. Whether it would fit with your location/work-life-balance/life goals, I am not sure. Google gets an inflated reputation as do many other prestigious firms. The interview process contains a large element of chance.

1. I would suspect that anyone who has a passion for including more high-level thinking in the classes they teach has the right approach to technology. Let alone that you actually teach a programming course to begin with.

2. Many of your comments show insights into computing and algorithms that I would say are of the same caliber of those of my friends who work at Google.

Not OP, but LOB stands for Line of Business and the TL;DR is that it is any application which fulfills a critical business need https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Line_of_business

It sounds like a perfect set of experience to go to freelancing and then remote development. It seems like going remote is the 2nd most popular endgame for most individual contributors on HN (lucrative startup exit being the first).

steven777400 is ahead of the game!

What specifically struck you about his comment history? I spent a few minutes digging through it and nothing really jumped out at me, very little of it was about engineering at all really. At least that I could see in the few minutes I spent glancing at it. Do you work at google yourself? What are you basing this opinion on?

I thought the same thing once, but applied anyway on a whim. Have now been at Google for 11 years.

It can't hurt to try.

It can hurt in my experience.

I've been interviewed by Google for position once because they contact me on LinkedIn; I didn't think this site was actually useful before that. I had the classic code writing phone screening with a question I figured the answer but I had to reschedule it because of bad wireless connection (university library, home was not even my wifi). The next time my setting was better but the interview was harder and I failed it. After that I got kinda bad feeling over my skills, lack of luck, being not-smart-enough and the graduate work to do I didn't do in favor of interview preparation.

In the end it was not so bad because getting a job there would have mean not doing my international student exchange year and give up my second master degree, for which I worked even more.

Another time I applied for an internship at Microsoft, I got a programming question that was not in the book (unlike Google) but I managed to got a solution. I was thinking it was fine despite a silly right/left error but still get rejected at the skype screening step. I didn't really get accustomed by my first failed attempt at Google so I lived it like a confirmation of my lack of skills. I felt so bad about it I didn't program for a while after that (three weeks or maybe even one month).

I guess mental preparation is almost as important or even more than algorithmic one. Maybe be I'll try it again one day, not to stay on a fail.

I see what you're saying. If it helps, remember that impostor syndrome is a real thing, and that many that work at Google failed their first interview too. I think the hiring process if biased towards avoiding false positives at all cost, which means it has many false negatives.

How did you apply? What experience, skills, and education did you have when you applied?

A Googler posted on their blog that they were looking, so I emailed him and he referred me. At the time I had dropped out of an EE+CS degree, had four years of suit-wearing professional experience writing enterprise webapps in PHP and ColdFusion, was halfway through a part-time Masters Degree in Design, and had a bunch of small JavaScript/C++/Art side projects. They hired me as a SWE, am now in UX.

I won't pretend that I wasn't very lucky in timing, interviewers, etc, but you won't get anywhere if you don't roll the dice.

What's your salary/compensation?

One of the problems with working for a high profile tech company (that isn't a startup) is that the Salary package is never that great, compared to say, Financial IT in the same geo-location. Most people work at these places for the culture, kudos, and not to get rich per se.

I've had several offers to go work for Microsoft (as that's where my skills lie) but I've turned them down as they all involved a hefty pay cut that I couldn't afford to do.

You expect a director at Google to post their comp? Seriously?

Care to share your business acumen with us instead of mocking someone for asking a question?

Only reason for the question was to see how inflamed HN commenter(s) (you) would get. People at startups are mocked all the time for their low wages, and forced to release them, but those in positions of experienced authority never have to.


Glen (gmurphy) is Director of UX at Google.

oh shi-

One of the best things you can learn is that nobody knows what they are doing.

The only problem is when the people you're interviewing with don't know that yet.

Hey, I know others on here have already chimed in, but I joined Google not that long ago having been rejected twice before. Please don't sell yourself short. Give us a try.

I live in India, have written a tutorial on Go, https://github.com/thewhitetulip/web-dev-golang-anti-textboo..., am decent with Go, am learning Vue.js, writing book on it as well, http://github.com/thewhitetulip/intro-to-vuejs/.

I am a full geek, applied twice. Didn't get any reply!

edit: changed book to tutorial

No disrespect intended, but if you have on your CV that you have "written a book" and it turns out not to be an actual book, with an actual publisher, in actual bookstores, it will create a bad impression with most interviewers. You should rephrase it as an "online tutorial" or something.

Thank you for the advice. I always tend to write a short tutorial, but then people ask, "what made you write the book" or "what's the structure of your book if I want to contribute". That's why I end up writing book. I will keep this tip in mind :-)

I read your tutorial some time ago and found it to be very good, probably one of the best introductions to Go I have read so far. Keep up the good work.

Thank you :-)

I really hate reading people believe they aren't skilled enough or won't be good enough to work at Google. When you realize all of the toys are part of an extremely successful strategy to keep you at the office as long as possible, and that Google is a huge company that has to hire thousands of people every year, you realize that this view that Google is "the best place to work" or that everyone who works there is a genius is silly.

While some of the most intelligent people I know work at or have worked at Google at some point, I know just as many Googlers I would describe as incompetent company men incapable of seeing beyond a PR line. Please don't ever get the impression that Googlers are somehow above you, because they're not. They're just people doing jobs.

You probably deserve more credit than you give yourself, and hey, humility is a virtue.

> When you realize all of the toys are part of an extremely successful strategy to keep you at the office as long as possible

Ugh, I can't believe how often I see this repeated with zero evidence to support it.

I work at Google. The office is a ghost town by 6:30. The work life balance on every team I'm aware of is great.

Saying the perks are some underhanded strategy to keep people around hugely insults the intelligence of the people working here or at any other office for that matter. Do you honestly think there are people that are like, "God, I'm miserable! I've been here 16 hours and I hate my life but I just... can't... stop... playing foosball!" Damn you, Google, and your nefarious perks!

No, that doesn't happen.

The reality is that skilled software engineers are in very high demand and companies compete very hard for them. Salary is part of it but perks are a huge component. No matter how much cash you make, for eight hours of the day, you are not spending it on fun leisure, you are at work. So companies understand now that they have to make the workplace appealing too to keep talent.

They also find, no surprise, that happy, stimulated people are productive, creative people too.

> Please don't ever get the impression that Googlers are somehow above you, because they're not.

I totally agree.

I agree as well.

I was at Google for a little over 2 years, and it was like a vacation after the small company I was at previously. I went from feeling like the future of the company depended on how fast I could fix a customer's bug or add a new feature to being a cog in a machine. Eg, 80hrs/week to about 45, and the ability to not obsess about my work email while on vacation (thereby actually making it a vacation).

I was contributor to the "ghost town" effect. I would come in around 6am and leave around 3pm to be able to pick my son up from school and spend more time with him.

I agree. I know a couple of outliers at Google who work long hours, but even the business folks aren't working much more than 45-50 hours per week. None of the engineers I know work more than 40 hours per week.

I've heard that some engineering teams at Amazon and Apple work long hours, but never heard it about Airbnb, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft (last 5 years), or Uber.


Some teams do


Maybe I'm little dense, I'm unsure why this is at -2 right now. Useless/unhelpful remark (sorry) or did I misinterpret the thread?

I got a job at a perk-loaded web shop along that same vein, and the thing about "toys" and various other benefits is that they help my time at the office be more efficient. In particular the cynical view that they keep you at the office longer has some truth to it, but the mechanism at play is relatively honest. For example take free food; I love not having to go outside to get lunch. I'm often in the middle of a good flow and it's so nice to be able to bring some food to my desk in 5 minutes instead of having to spend an hour finding a seat, waiting for the check etc. This means I can get more done while at the office, and still go home early to be with the kid.

Similar for the other things like the pub or foosball; I can have a quick evening of hanging out with friends right there on the premises instead of driving an hour to meet up somewhere. So again the time saved ends up helping the company, and benefits me as well because who likes to sit in traffic.

I'm not saying it's better to do those things 100% of the time, but some healthy fraction. Of course it's a nice break to walk down the street for lunch on a nice day, etc.

> No, that doesn't happen.

hmm, not really, there was one time, my nap took so long that I had to pay almost $100 late fee to my daughter's preschool...

And also in the USA the IRS is very lenient when it comes to taxing benefits in kind.

Back when I worked for British telecom in new buildings they wanted to offer free tea and coffee - HMRC said no you have to pay tax and that was the end of that.

Of course then one senior manger worked out that there was tax allowance that allowed a tax free profit related bonus and the company gave every one a $300 tax free bonus as a F&^k you to the tax man

In Australia, the Fringe Benefits Tax is similarly capable of sucking the frills and perks out of any situation.

I've worked in offices where we paid for coffee by an honour system.

A local council, which makes some revenue through parking metres, was required to put parking metres on its own carpark and charge its own employees, because it was Council land and this would make it a fringe benefit. There wasn't much sympathy, but still.

> skilled software engineers are in very high demand and companies compete very hard for them

I keep hearing this but when I ask how to identify skilled engineers things get confused. ;)

It's mostly about keeping the ones you already have.

To sound as snarky as you do, if you can't identify skilled engineers, you aren't one.

> The reality is that skilled software engineers are in very high demand and companies compete very hard for them.

Nobody has ever competed hard for me. "Skilled software engineers" is a very broad category, and only a subset are actually competed for. Choose the wrong specialization, live in the wrong area, or work for the wrong companies and you'll be lucky to even get acknowledgement of your applications.

"Saying the perks are some underhanded strategy to keep people around hugely insults the intelligence of the people working here or at any other office for that matter."

I believe that the original motivation for offering free lunch was a calculation WRT how much time people 'wasted' driving to and fro a restaurant, and how much Google could/save profit by having the perks.

I do not believe Google is entirely nefarious with this culture and perks etc. - but please do not be so naive - it's a corporation, just like any other. Nearly everything they do - even internal practice - is oriented towards profit.

I left the office at 5:40pm tonite, about majority of my team had already left.

Most Googlers I encounter are extremely humble. I'd say one of the most valuable things about Googley culture is the lack of prima donna alpha-male macho-engineer behavior. Because Google has so many highly skilled engineers, and because it frowns in general on being an egotistical jerk, it's hard for even huge egos not to adopt some humility.

How can I think I'm the bees knees, when I work at a company that employs Rob Pike and Jeff Dean?

I've worked at IBM, Oracle, and several mid-sized companies over my 20 years as an engineer, and while many of those companies had high quality engineers, I'd say the biggest benefit of Google is the Company culture it created, not the skill levels of the people.

> I'd say one of the most valuable things about Googley culture is the lack of prima donna alpha-male macho-engineer behavior.

I'd love to work in a place like that. I'm sick and tired of people riding rough-shod over others in the workplace just because they think they are better than them.

Most places now value the voice of the loudest shouter, over the voice of the experienced knowledgeable specialist, so much in fact that everything becomes a dick measuring contest. As someone who doesn't identify as a typical male, this makes for a very uncomfortable working environment.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

> I left the office at 5:40pm tonite

I can't tell if this is supposed to be evidence that you don't work long hours or an admission that you do.

I usually don't get into the office until after 10.

BTW, keep in mind, many people stay late or come in late to avoid traffic on the 101.

It all depends on the starting time.

That company culture must look really different from in there than it does from out here.

Given how about 90% of your posts on HN are attacking Google, that Googlers have continued to try to engage you in rational discussion nicely speaks volumes.

Engaging me in what you believe to be "rational" discussion isn't going to change my posts. Because despite your attempt to ignore addressing the issues I highlight by grouping them together and characterize me as a 'hater', I'm a pretty straight shooter.

If you want to change my commentary, you have to change your employer. Why not ask Larry Page at those company AMAs why Google keeps their contracts with manufacturers (now seen as illegal in most countries) so secret? Why not tell Larry Page you don't want to work at a company that uses political corruption to avoid being subject to the same laws as everyone else? Ask Larry Page to stop getting Google involved in overthrowing world leaders, and otherwise going well outside the reasonable bounds of a tech company. Tell Larry Page you want to work at a company that puts people, not algorithms, in charge of customer service. I mean, you literally now work at a company that's operating in complete defiance of federal law in Russia, as Google is refusing to comply with court orders there. As a long time employee, Ray, you are complicit in all of Google's incredibly terrible behavior, even if you aren't directly responsible for it.

If Google starts behaving itself, those of us following the news will listen and respond accordingly. Just as many have softened their take on Microsoft, as they've started making more consumer-friendly decisions. (Though there's some areas they still have a long way to go as well.)

Buying into the weakest conspiracies of Julian Assange is not being a "straight shooter". You took Google to task over their patent pledge and demanded they release all of their patents unconditionally, but give Microsoft a pass on highly trollish and litigious behavior.

You also don't mention that some of the things Google (and Facebook and Twitter) are not complying with concern Russian government attempts to persecute bloggers. Google was also not "compliant" with Beijing's demands for censorship and in 2010, pulled out of the country entirely, giving up billions of dollars in revenue and letting Baidu completely take over.

You say you're not a "hater", but you post almost exclusively on this subject, not just on HN, but on your other social network accounts. My facebook feed is pretty much 100% on bad stuff about Trump these days, and it would be completely accurate to characterize me as a Trump hater.

And for the record, people are pretty vocal internally about fixing product excellence and customer support issues. One of the chief reasons why complaining on HN works, is that so many Googlers care about this issue and are dismayed to see what should be customer support issues on HN. Righting a ship with several billion users is going to take time. Microsoft and Apple has 3+ decades of experience organically growing their consumer support culture.

It has nothing to do with Julian Assange. He's revealed... pretty much nothing of substance about Google that wasn't already out there (Heck, Google publicizes a lot of it). But Jared Cohen IS incredibly scary as an individual, not just for his attempts to work with our State department, but his desire to censor speech on the Internet that Google and our government disagree with. The fact that Joshua Wright jumps from Google paycheck to Google paycheck in government while "technically" not being a Google employee, and has managed to successful jump from the Obama administration to the Trump administration, is genuinely amazing.

If your company is going to take a stand against censorship, and is willing to leave a country to do it: Great. But let's not get off topic, and talk about how Google has been found guilty of antitrust, and fined for it. A trivial fine, mind you, Google makes that much in literally seconds, yet Google has refused to pay it, and has since already gotten fined again for noncompliance. And no move on Google releasing manufacturers from the illegal terms they're being held to with respect to the Russian market.

The issue with Google's patents is their hypocrisy. They claim they're against patent litigation, but only actually pledge not to abuse a tiny percentage of their own stockpile. We cannot and should not trust a corporation to not act in it's best interest. While it may not be in Google's interest to patent troll today, neither you nor anyone at Google can rationally say they won't tomorrow. Leadership changes, market positions change, and Google, first and foremost, has to serve it's stockholders. Microsoft doesn't so much get a "pass" on the matter as a stay of execution, because they're chipping away at a criminal operation.

You convict Google on hypothetical future patent behavior, but give a pass to Microsoft who is currently engaging in actual bad behavior. And this is not bad behavior in the sense that government bureaucrats decided it, but bad in the sense that the tech community finds it abhorrent. It's a mafia-style shakedown, one in which Microsoft went after Barnes & Noble, a company who is not even a large player in any tech market, for e-reader Android licensing revenues. Chipping away at a criminal operation? Give me a break.

600 million Chinese Android non-OHA smartphones are shipping, millions more in India, lots of evidence you can ship AOSP forked devices, so I don't agree with Europe and Russia's argument. My guess is, if Google just focused on the Pixel as the premier container for their mobile apps, and the rest of the world was AOSP, you'd see Google's services installed by OEMs anyway, because of the sheer popularity of most of them, just as you see on the Web. And Russia could have their Putin-approved Yandex phone, which should make bloggers happy.

It's funny that Googlers like to cite China as proof AOSP is really a thing and that competition exists. But the only reason it works is that as you point out: Google exited China. It's impossible to compete with an illegal monopoly, but we can easily see how much better the market works when Google is gone. So Europe and Russia's argument is, AOSP will thrive when Google (or at least, their blatantly illegal contract terms with OEMs) is gone, of which I agree completely. I'm sure Russia would be more than happy if Google left on "moral grounds".

Android's lack of Google services in China isn't because Google "exited" (and by "exit", means moved servers to Hong Kong), it's because the great firewall blocks them. If you take a phone purchased in Europe or the US into China, Google Play Services won't work without a VPN.

Do you think the Great Firewall is an example of "how much better the market works"? You know, where BAT (Baidu/Alibaba/Tencent) are the oligarchy who controls everything? Have you tried Baidu's search? It's terrible, even for searching for information on the Chinese mainland web.

Your "see how much better things work?" is that 600 million phones are shipping with worse versions of Android, with worse security, lots of malware/spyware, and government censorship.

I suppose thats a victory for the investors with Baidu stock, and Beijing's thirst to control the flow of information, but it doesn't look like a victory for consumers to me, or an example of "markets working"

Having not used phones in China, I won't comment on quality, but at the very least, it does prove the point: The only place Androids not controlled by Google exist in substantial number is where Google is banned. Not exactly a shining argument for your claim Google isn't a huge antitrust problem.

Not sure why this is downvoted, it's mostly true. At this point, getting an offer from Google has nothing to do with engineer skill. Only one thing matters, spending time studying algorithms/data structures and being able to quickly pattern match it to random problems. It's just like cramming for a final exam in college. Massive amount of info pushed into short-term memory and then after finals week, flushed out. Has nothing to do with your skill or experience as an engineer.

If I saw a resume and it had Google on it, it doesn't really tell me much other than they played the tech interview game well. It would actually be a signal that I should not interview them like the way Google and others do because they know how to do optimized studying for it. Instead, some other interview method should be used to find out if they're actually a good engineer instead of just good at studying.

I'd say getting an offer from Google means nothing, but successfully working there for a few years at level 5 or above, does count for something. If you are recruiting for a startup, as my wife's recently did, the difference between the Xooglers she hired and non-Xooglers in terms of productivity and code quality was large.

This would likewise apply to seasoned ex-Facebook, Twitter, Square, Amazon, etc engineers. These are likely people who had to work with teams on reliable complex systems that serve a big audience. It won't matter for the prototype you use to get seed funding, but I'd argue it matters for the eventual rewrite.

Yes and no. Interviewing is definitely something you can become good at by practice (I can confirm). But I can tell you that studying algorithms and data structures for interviews (which I would not have done otherwise) has made me a much better engineer and I've taken a huge amount of knowledge from it that I use very often. So it's more like one of those exams that taught you a lot, even if you don't remember everything after a year :)

Well this particular intern who wrote the post was found due to things he had build/done. So I'd say in this case it does matter. I'd also say that a Google offer means more than being able to play the recruiting game because Google actively rethinks their recruiting process and tries to be data driven.

almost every other good tech company interviews using the same types of questions

Downvotes are Google employees defending their employer or self-esteem. I expected them when I posted my comment.

The pay, company reputation (as a good employer AND top place technically), appearance on a resume, possibility of working on something cool, and actually managing to get through their interview is always going to appeal to people.

I'd work at google if I got an offer, because why not. I know it's a big company and everything, oh well.

I'd settle for passing the interview though. Don't like failing. :P

I have 35 years of programming experience in many varied things (and currently iOS Swift). The changes of Google hiring me is 0. The chances of Google hiring a bright young guy willing to stay at work 14 hours a day I expect is pretty high.

Respectfully, I don't know anyone here who works 14 hours a day. Anyone. And two of my teammates are more than twice my age (and I'm 25).

Don't get so down on yourself. :) The chances of Google hiring you are zero if you don't apply, but if you do, they're definitely positive.

same here, 15 years of solid experience in a bunch of startups & many successful projects from scratch but all they seem to care about is warm bodies that can solve their weird interview puzzles. nothing from core expertise area at all.

Well said

If you want to work there, then you should just apply. You never know

I genuinely believed that I wasn't intelligent or confident enough to pass a Google interview. When a Google recruiter contacted me several years ago, my wife encouraged me to reply even though I liked the startup for which I was working and didn't think I'd make it. I prepped aggressively, got very lucky, and now I've been at Google for over 3 years.

This is a truly wonderful place to work; if you are interested in being here, I'd encourage you to apply in spite of your self doubt. :)

I suggest you read The Python Paradox (http://paulgraham.com/pypar.html), if you haven't already. It's not that your projects are simple, stupid, don't require skills (I believe it's actually quite the opposite), it's that your current skillset/projects aren't that exciting/sought after in the SV.

Python has come a long way since 2004 when it was not used much in industry. Now it's the top language for data science, along with some good web frameworks such as Flask/Django. Although, I'm pleased to see that Python was thought of highly then.

Nice writeup. My favorite part is

>> simply practiced interview questions for about three to four months, every day, from morning till night. I then had three phone interviews around November, which I passed.

It's interesting (& funny) to see both high schoolers and experienced people spend similar amount of time (~several months) practicing for these types of technical interviews.

What it should be, is sad. These types of questions are often very different from actual work. The fact that you have to study or train for an interview process specifically, is absurd. Just being qualified for the job, should suffice.

While you may argue that it is inefficient, there is something to be said for the power of signaling theory. I think that if the interview process ends up simply weeding out candidates that are willing and have the motivation to study for a few months for the job versus candidates who aren't, it is in it of itself probably extremely valuable as a selection tool. Heck, there is a lot of literature suggesting that this is what college is mostly about.

The thorny -- and important issue -- in all of this is recognize that the cost of "studying for a few months" varies sharply between people. when it comes to matters of equity of access, this is something that this model is bad at dealing with. Some 17yr old with a solid family background who has no responsibilities is facing very different constraints on "studying for a few months" then an older single-family professional trying to make a career switch.

I'm pretty sure what you study or should be studying is data structures and algorithms and their application in most cases (for programming interviews). I don't think it's bad at all and in fact I should study up on these topics because I'm not as good as I'd like. It is extremely useful to roughly identify that the problem you work on is of a divide and conquer nature and that something quicksortish might be an interesting approach. I do remember from the last time I prepared algos that my overall thinking got a lot clearer.

Actually its good. If you study for months on interview questions to be able to pass the interview, you have "gamed" the system to get in and will likely be washed back out in 1-2 years depending on the mercy if your leadership team. People who spend the night before brushing up on their CS and passing the interview are those that actually pass (and stay and grow) and that is who the company really wants. Its just hard to weed out people who are very determined to game their way through.

...or the people willing to put that much effort into "gaming" the system as you call it are those most likely to put in the effort to succeed and thrive on the job, and are therefore precisely who Google is looking for...

Why do you think this is true?

Just being qualified does suffice.

It's the definition of qualified that needs to change.

Uh, I think the culture that normalizes this kind of extreme approach is really unhealthy and creates a very false mythos around this process. You can see from his other comments that the author will likely burn out if they don't learn how to take care of themselves.

This whole thing feels like myth making. Googler's aren't perfect space aliens.

I spent ~ 6 hours prepping for my interviews, and got an offer. About half that time was cramming Stroustrup's "A Tour of C++" for my C++ interview, since I hadn't used it in a year or so. The other half was going through the most common data structures and algorithms and refreshing my memory.

The coolest thing I used in my interviews was Union-Find.

FWIW, the company I left was actively hiring and I had interviewed 15 candidates in the preceding two months, so I was used to the process.

> It’s Googley to stand up for diversity and inclusion, such as protesting against binary gendering on toilets

So if I support binary gendering on toilets, I'm not welcome at Google? Why has it become necessary to subscribe to a particular set of political beliefs in order to work for Silicon Valley firms?

I don't think 19guid has a problem with using a toilet or being an asshole. I think the question is why is dissent from specific political views looked down upon?

I have been in Silicon Valley for almost a year now after moving from the Midwest. I have been able to talk freely with my coworkers about some of my conservative views. Yet when I have shared what would count as "traditional values" on internal forums I have been on the receiving end of redicual and name calling.

I very much would like to hear a thoughtful response on why Silicon Valley is so unaccepting of political dissent.

You have a good point. A friend of mine works at Yahoo and he regularly gets emails from management encouraging everyone to show up at the Yahoo booth at Gay Pride Parade. Sure, Yahoo wants to be at Gay Pride Parade because they want to be seen as an open and accepting place. If Yahoo does not participate, it looks bad because every other big company (read: Yahoo's competitors) attends Gay Pride Parade too.

But now we have a problem. What if there are conservative employees who do not support gay marriage rights? Should their opinions and feelings not count? If Yahoo is an open and accepting place, then it should be just as acceptable for a manager to send emails to employees inviting them to Straight Parade, or to "Anti Gay Marriage" Parade. But if that were to happen, the manager would be fired immediately.

Being against Gay Marriage rights is a political opinion, just like being FOR Gay Marriage rights. Isn't it discriminatory that a company like Yahoo is only allowing one opinion to be heard? In fact, isn't it problematic that Yahoo is promoting ANY political opinion in the first place? For Yahoo to remain an accepting and open work place, it should either have no political agenda at all, or it should promote all political opinions equally.

There are several things to unpack here, but I'm going to stick to one.

The primary difference, in practice, between something like Gay Pride and something like "Straight Pride", would be the power dynamic between the two.

Historically, and even to some extent currently, the people with more power have been those who would be in the latter parade.

"Punching up" is what it's called when you are challenging a group more powerful than you - "punching down" is more commonly referred to as "bullying".

This is the usual story, but power is more complicated than that. "up" and "down" assume a linear dimension.

> Historically, and even to some extent currently

Surely only the current situation matters? Why should the people now care about the power dynamic of the past?

Sure, it's not necessarily one dimensional, but it also doesn't just scale in terms of total magnitude summed across all dimensions (e.g. a bit of power in 50 axes is not comparable to the same quantity of power in one axis).

The reason to care about the dynamic of the past is that people are influenced by the past - in particular, people's actions in the present are often based on things that they did or that were done to them in the past.

Specifically, here, the reason to care about the past is that, even if/when we reached a point of equilibrium, where a subset of people were no longer in a minority of power, there would still likely be X Pride events for a while after, because the feeling of needing/wanting such things would not go away overnight.

> it's not necessarily one dimensional

Or even multidimensional. a "sum across all dimensions" doesn't make sense to me.

We are talking about something (power) that differs across contexts, locations, times etc. Power is as complex as our (human) social organisation, an is not amenable to linear algebra.

> people are influenced by the past

Unless that is is a result of holding this belief; People are never influenced about the past, only by their subjective, current beliefs about the past. It would make more sense to consider what people believe now.

Marxist historical analysis has fallen out of favor for a good reason.

> would not go away overnight

Desire for power will never go away.

The "subset of people" is biased towards how you do your grouping; For example, that I, a white man, am naturally grouped with white slavers of the past, such that modern black Americans have something to resent me for.

Your narrative here relies on these kind of groupings in order to talk about "a point of equilibrium" and "no longer in a minority of power" - you need to identify a group as the same over a period of time in order to make these distinctions.

>Being against Gay Marriage rights is a political opinion, just like being FOR Gay Marriage rights.

There is a difference. If you are for gay marriage, you support gays having the same rights as everyone else. If you are against it, you want them to have less rights, just because they are gay, even though it doesn't affect your own rights in any way.

Now, it's still a political opinion, but it's reasonable for other people to not like it. Being in favor of segregation is also a political opinion but would provoke similar backlash.

The problem is:

> it looks bad because

where we have these insidious "interpretations" then end up in requiring you to do or say one thing or another to prove your allegiance to some principle other people consider sacred.

I think it promotes those opinions that are healthy for the business and the world in general.

I mean, you could theoretically accept any viewpoint, but you don't really want nazis in your company to be an accepted thing.

don't accept non-binary gendering == Nazi


It never looks like a "political" issue when you're convinced it's a human rights issue. For a human rights issue, the other side's feelings don't matter because they're obviously assholes anyway, so you can do whatever you want to them to advance The Cause.

I'd also love to hear an explanation from someone intolerant of dissent.

I attribute it to the history of feminism. First-wave feminism genuinely dealt with human rights issues where dissent was based on a twisted view of humanity (e.g. women are property of men, not autonomous subjects). The late third and fourth waves have kept the same assumption about the nature of their views. But the views themselves are very much more extreme and unintuitive.

Again, I'd love to hear someone explain it better from their own feminist point of view.

The easiest way to start answering that question would be for you to share a traditional value with us.

I would say the values that marriage is between a man and a women and that ones gender should match their sex. Something worth noting is that since the election I have seen support of Trump receive similar treatment.

The toilets in question are individual room style toilets. You really can't handle that? Is that really a political belief? How do you go to the bathroom in smaller restaurants that have had toilets like that for decades?

Supporting "binary gendering" on toilets means deliberately troubling one's transsexual, queer etc. colleagues; not only hurting their feelings with a constant reminder that they are misfits, but concretely allowing obnoxious people to attack them because they are guilty of using the "wrong" restroom.

Such an attitude, although less harmful than many more common workplace problems, is so high on the jerk scale that I cannot imagine how it could be considered a political issue. It's as absurd as asserting one's right to drive while drunk.

I'll add another thing; Policy needn't automatically be inferred/interpreted to a philosophy, or vice-versa.

For example, I don't believe there is a fixed age where a person magically develops the facilities to make sexual choices. However, I do support a fixed, explicit age of consent - A legal parameter only needs to be practical.

I want to start this by saying I think it is wrong for a person to be attacked in any manner for their citizenship in a protected class. At the same time, I think all protected classes should be fair game for critical discussion on the pros and cons of belonging to that specific class.

With my opening comment in mind, what if I reject your premise and believe that ones gender should match their sex? Is it not a political issue when a portion of the population believe transgenderism is alright and another portion believe differently?

I feel like the standard for what counts as "diversity and inclusion" is skewed. There is no problem with an atheist opening being critical of religion. Yet I cannot openly critique the merits of anything in the LGBTQQIP2SAA community.

Is the end goal that everyone has the "right" answer to specific questions and no one has hurt feelings or is the end goal that an open honest dialog between radically different viewpoints can happen where all parties are respected regardless of the topic being discussed or who is involved in the discussion? Someone please chime in if they disagree but I see a lot of former happening and only lip service being paid to the later.

My "premise" is that going out of one's way to make someone feel miserable is evil, and therefore unisex toilets in the workplace are nice. Where the transsexual, queer etc. employees who care are abundant rather than hypothetical, as appears to be the case at Google, unisex toilets are practically important rather than a symbolic gesture.

I don't see not being evil as a controversial issue, with "radically different viewpoints" deserving "open honest dialog".

Unisex toilets are just a simple and inexpensive way to be not evil; unfortunately touching the subject of gender is a strong temptation for many people to divert the discussion towards the most toxic and horrible politically correct or intolerant ideas.

If your premise is considering "protected classes" rather than people and discussing "transgenderism" as if it were abstract you are clearly not thinking about the comfort and well-being of your coworkers.

One of your premises is that there is nothing wrong with being transgender. I disagree. Does that make me evil? Does voicing that cause my coworkers so much misery that I cannot say it?

> Such an attitude

But you just made it up? Don't you mean "such an interpretation" - you can fashion a narrative around any belief.

My goog office has many trans engineers. They're very good at their jobs. I guess they might not want to work in an office designed by you, either now or at some stage in their transition. You'd be missing out on their talent.

trans engineers who refuse to work at a place with binary toilets?

If a population of conservative engineers existed who refused to work at a place with non-binary toilets, would you make the same statement? Or would they not be good at their jobs?

Having a conservative politic is a choice. That person probably has a lot of intersecting workplace difficulties that go along with being the type of person who wants to police which bathrooms people use.

> the type of person who

I could speculate the same about the trans engineers, I'm sure it wouldn't be welcome.

> Having a conservative politic is a choice

Please expand on this; what specifically is not a choice in contrast, and how does this relate to this situation?

There are situations in which I feel "uncomfortable", and not by choice; but this is unrelated to whether I am receiving unfair treatment.

> such as protesting against binary gendering on toilets > So if I support binary gendering on toilets, I'm not welcome at Google?

Why do you think that allowing employees to protest male and female only toilets means that you are not welcome? Should all dissenting voices be silenced? I'm for unisex toilets, it is just more convenient. But that doesn't means that I HATE people that has a different view. It is my preference, and I think that at least I should be able to express it.

Because its a dog whistle its like saying oh its just a childs toy when referring to a Goliwog.

What is it a dog whistle for?

Your being disingenuous you know perfectly well what I mean.

An insinuation on top of an insinuation. I'm asking you be more specific about "what you mean".

Because assholes who care about things that aren't really their business are difficult to deal with.

Sorry, it seems like some kind of pseudo-utopia for people who want to feel special and intelligent all the time. People in silly spaceship themed rooms, meditating or hacking upside down, or maybe in sensory deprivation chambers for deep focus? It all screams: I'm entitled to coddling and acceptance--nay, encouragement of my eccentricities--cause I'm special. I just don't know if that's healthy or necessary, if Google is so successful in part due to this, or despite it.

Or maybe it’s just for the sake of fun! There are some eccentric people out there, but I don’t think the point of having upside-down work areas is to cater to eccentricities.

"for people who want to feel special and intelligent all the time."

Who doesn't want that?

So you think that everyone dressing like an IBM'r in the 70's is better its the eccentrics, hackers and od balls that often can produce the ground breaking work

Never thought id get down voted on here for standing up for "hacker" culture.

And BTW one of the worlds leading IBM experts (ie IBM used to get him to give talks ) to used to meditate in his own home made flotation tank - he one saved a quarterly billing run that was measured in hundreds of millions.

Cool article. But I always find it funny how people try to convince you that so-and-so in their company is a big shot ("our director, the fourth highest rank at Google, after CEO, SVP and VP"). Trust me, outside of your company, that person is quite irrelevant. For most people, that person is just someone working at a big company.

Hey now, at least the naming hierarchy makes sense. My favorite example is finance, where VP is such a meaningless title that Goldman Sachs argued in court that it doesn't carry any weight.


Jesus christ, there is a lot of jealousy in this thread. I don't have anything interesting to add to the conversation but I am in awe with how much you've been able to accomplish in life already. Good job and I look forward to seeing what else you put out in the world.

It's already insane that you got an internship (at Google too!) in your first year of college, but you seem to have done extremely well there too.

Nicely done! Seems like you're well on your way to being a very successful engineer.

And what's next in the path of a very successful engineer? 10 years down the line? 30? 40?

Writing snarky comments on HN seems to work for most people.

Great read.

However, he lost me at

> Googley to stand up for diversity and inclusion, such as protesting against binary gendering on toilets

Is it Google's business? Why should Google be involved? Why cater to 0.6% of the population, at the expense of convenience for the 99.4%?

At my last job we had "non-binary", "all-inclusive" bathrooms. They're just awkward. Not the stalls themselves, but having to share the bathroom with females, who would also rather have their separate, female bathroom.

Yes, it is, but I think the implementation matters. In my building on the Google Kirkland campus, we have men's and women's bathrooms in a few different places, and also one place where there's 5 single-occupancy unisex bathrooms and one mother's room. It's great! It doesn't take any space away from the other bathrooms, and it accommodates people who are uncomfortable in the cisgender multi-person bathrooms for whatever reason (maybe they're somewhere in the QUILTBAG or maybe there's totally unrelated physical or psychological reasons they prefer single-occupancy restrooms).

My understanding is that we're not trying to strike down all the barriers and make all toilets unisex, but there definitely are people who are working to make sure that every building has at least one of those unisex single-occupancy bathrooms, for people who need it. It doesn't cost Googlers anything except at most a couple of conference rooms.

Honestly, its largely a non-issue. Presenting people with choice and accommodating e.g. mothers is common sense.

It is the fact of protesting such matters at work that threw me off in the first place. Opinions shouldn't be crammed down people's throats.

If the protest was about the lack of such choice, at the time, then this is still compatible with what you're suggesting is common sense.

> and one mother's room.

As a primary-carer father raising a toddler I don't like that terminology. I'd prefer that they'd just call it a Lactating Room rather than trying to be coy and seemingly indicating a preference for one parent.

If you are a lactating male then you are in a very small minority. Why not just "baby care room"?

I think you're making the reverse of his point.

It's named a "mother's room" because it's for feeding/pumping, and so it's an attempt to offer privacy to people lactating. He's objecting to the name's failure to properly convey that, suggesting that (like putting changing tables solely in women's rooms) it reinforces the (harmful to both genders) assumption that childcare is a female task.

Which is to say - a "baby care room" is also a good idea, but it would be a room with a different use. The proposed name change was about making the name conform to the current intent of the room.

single unisex stalls are great because they also accommodate for people who prefer them for any reason, without out requiring political or clinical validation of those reasons.

Yes, the treatment of their employees in the workplace is very much Google's business. Accomodating LGBT employees is not only the right thing to do, it's also supported by many of the binary/cisgender/straight/non-queer/what have you employees at workplaces like Google.

It's a good deal more than 0.6% at Google, fyi. And the toilets in question aren't stall toilets, they're room toilets, like you'd see in a smaller restaurant.

I doubt that strongly.

In fact - it's considerably less than 0.6% in real life.

The manner in which they calculate 'non gender binary' is really, really soft - i.e. 'if don't feel entirely male or female' you can often be included in that group.

Hell, I'm a pretty straight white dude, but I don't feel 'fully male' 100% of the time!

Moreover - most trans people are actually still 'binary' - they still identify as one or the other.

I'm inclined to agree that Google has more of share of people who are not binary, but in reality, the number is really, really small. Much smaller than 0.6%.

Have you never been in a place with unisex toilets?

In Australia, many offices, pubs and clubs have 'unisex toilets' which are basically just a whole bunch of small individual stalls with toilets + basin. Most of the time it isn't necessarily about being progressive, just cost saving and practicality.

I am in Australia, and have never come across "unisex toilets". Perhaps I'm misreading your comment, but I think you suggest a room of stall that can be used by all genders. I think by law however, there needs to be an "accessible" bathroom. This will be a single room which would likely fulfil the role.

Why cater to 0.6% of the population, at the expense of convenience for the 99.4%?

Do all those 99.4% of people consider it an "expense"? A lot of people are happy to make a small sacrifice if it greatly benefits other people.

Very fair point, but what about the fraction of people who not only consider it an expense, but an affront to moral dignity? For example, Politico did a poll which showed that 46% of Americans believe that everyone should use the bathroom of their birth. Should their comforts be sacrificed for the sake of 0.6% of the population?

If people do things that have no material impact on you, and yet you believe are a "moral affront" then you don't understand where your liberty ends and someone else's begins. Those people need to learn that lesson, and then get over themselves.

You don't get to impose your morality on other people. Morality is a personal belief, and nothing more. It's that simple.

"Believed that they should" is not necessarily the same as "affronted if they don't".

There are, for example, a number of people who would not get an abortion, but believe in the right of others to doso.

But does it matter in that context? Does/should a belief be weighted higher if it causes "offense" - this would mean the easily offended would have their beliefs weighed higher, and thus people would be encouraged to be so.

I don't think a belief should be necessarily weighted higher because it causes offense (or not), no.

I was trying to indicate the difference between "I would never" and "no one should ever" - the former being a belief that attempts to say nothing about what other people should or should not do, where the latter certainly says something about what everyone should do.

Doesn't the former lack the moral principle of universalism?

This issue is separate from whether bathrooms should be unisex

In a previous job we had a small office with just 4 toilets. About 10% of employees were female. There had originally been 2/2 male/female toilets but that was changed to 2 male, 1 female, and 1 unisex toilet. That worked well in practice.

So I agree that unisex toilets can be a good idea, but it's a different matter to protest against binary gendering on toilets. I wouldn't like to work for a company that partakes in politics.

What exactly is so awkward about sharing a bathroom with females?

It's like no-one saw Ally McBeal in the 90s.

I'm a little disturbed that "Googli[ness]" involves both reasonable, sociable behavior and attitudes, but also leftist principles such as the above, as it might then serve to conflate the two.

In SF office, the Unisex toilets are nicer and more spacious.

I would ask you why is this singled out of an article that covers a large range of ideas. Your mask is now off.

>but having to share the bathroom with females

The fact this comment is not gray having such overt misogyny speaks poorly of HN as a tech community. This is what keeps women out of tech.

Mods, please delete this.

Explain you point of view rather than calling for censorship. No, its not obvious.

Really well written...an interesting read.

On this though: "On my last day, my team got me some cake and gave me some very sweet farewell gifts, such as the potato below."

What's with the potato? Is that some inside joke at Google?

No it was more a joke between me and a colleague, because even though we got gourmet food three times a day he would just eat potatoes and eggs all the time

I think potatoes are just a joke in general. They're just... there.

I think this is why Dwight Schrute owned a beet farm, also. He could have farmed anything, but beets are just inherently funnier than wheat or soybeans.

The fine article describes exactly the environment one would expect of people who run the worlds largest search engine but who still couldnt see a Trump victory coming a mile away. People living in a well cocooned safe space. A superb fit for university students.

Pretty much consolidates my view that AlphaGo was Google's IBM Deep Blue moment ie now past their peak. Their future products and services are going to be increasingly as distant from reality as the people themselves are, and thus much less useful or profitable.

Love how they docked you for Work/Life balance. Grats on the productivity and keep up the building. :)

It's good that you found it enjoyable, but something worth keeping in mind beyond the fun-and-games atmosphere is whether you are in agreement with the company's overall direction and goals (and the fact that you are essentially contributing to that effort by working there); it reminds me of this article with a very much opposing view:


It's not so much Google employees would tell you they agree with Google's goals and direction, but that they have an incredible cognitive dissonance about what direction that is.

Most Google engineers will tell you that Google is trying to make the world a better place, rather than the reality that Google is trying to make incredibly large amounts of money at the expense of anything that gets in their way.

I'm curious about the negative on work/life balance. Did they really talk about how to improve it, or was it tongue-in-cheek?

Well, they did mean it for real. They didn't directly give me feedback on how to improve it, other than "go home, man". It's a personal choice in the end :)

For a defined 3-month internship where your primary goal is to suck up as much experience as possible at a young age during said internship, I think you can give insane work hours a pass and just accept that they're making the most of the short-term opportunity. Just don't let it become habit in a fulltime job and you'll be sweet.

Even for a 3 month period, I think 16 hours is overkill. I would say 12 hours is the upper limit. This is just my opinion of course.

In any case, good on Google for warning people about that, especially younger interns/employees. Some people just get into the lifestyle and end up realizing what they lost way too late. Work isn't everything. It's important to wind down by doing things other than what you do at work/school, such as exercise, meditation, or a just developing a hobby in general.

Sometimes I like to do 16 hours one day and 0 hours the next.

Hey--congrats on a really successful internship! I'm glad you had fun, and maybe we'll see you when you've wrapped up your studies, too. :)

Read you resume. Un-fuckin-real. wow.

Geez. You weren't exaggerating.

Incredible maturity at your age - Google does a great job at finding talent.

> I spent around three days on my presentation, mainly because I did it in LaTeX instead of PowerPoint, as any sane person would in about one tenth of the time.

This was the only part I could completely identify with. Perhaps even using Google Slides would have been acceptable! But what geek could resist the allure of Beamer... :)

The volume of people hung up on bathrooms should illustrate, to anyone on the fence, how virulent transphobia is. Framing it as a political question rather than a question of basic rights is quite dark.

For context, they'll have a hallway with a dozen single bathrooms. They're not even mixing genders. But folks are so obsessed with their own fears of the unknown that they happily jump on any excuse to deny trans personhood.

For context, trans people are less likely to be predators or violent, and much more likely to be the victims of violent crimes.


Glad you had a good time. Any concerns about working on personal projects using Google resources (whether or not you used their laptop, you used their building, wifi, snacks, etc.). Wouldn't they own the IP? (if they wanted to pursue it)

Kind of ridiculous IMO that Google does not extend offers before leaving the internship. In cases like this, it really does not make sense.

In that midpoint form I mention there's a box you can tick if you want to do "conversion" interviews at the end of your internship. Since I still have two more years of uni I didn't tick that box.

IMHO you're on the right track. Just try to get some fun while you're in the university because you ain't gonna find that environment (parties, girls, friends, etc.) elsewhere. Even if you do find something similar, sure as hell won't be the same.

Agreed. Don't let uni just be a gateway to employment. It's also a really good young adult experience where you can form social networks trivially easy that will serve you well into the future. It's your last hurrah of the innocence of no constant commitments and obligations before fulltime work too.

> university because you ain't gonna find that environment

It's also hard to make absurd amounts of cash having fun during university too (well, at least it's like that in the US).

I believe the OP is a first year CS student, so a full time offer probably didn't make sense.

It does. All interns that receive good evaluation feedback are offered to transition into full-time employees and this transition may not even require interview loop.

It always requires a partial interview loop (the "conversion" interviews) now; they changed it in the last year or two.

Nah, 2 or more time interns (only in the US, at the moment? Wasn't the case in Sydney, but was for a friend in Seattle) can get a FTE role if they have really good feedback from t heir internships.

I can confirm this, 2 time intern in the US then London who a full time SWE offer with no conversion interviews.

If so, it's not publicized internally. I interned at Google this summer too, and I didn't hear anything about how I could bypass conversion interviews. Maybe it's a case-by-case discretion thing.

I /think/ (with only anecdata) that this only comes up when you try to convert.

Not sure how it works in Europe but in Silicon Valley, many companies.

Especially if someone is not a senior. (American slang for a student in their final year)

Interesting, well written. Gives a window on how a corporation manages relationships with young smart people, and the actual psychological impact it has, the effectiveness. Thank you.

Nitpicking: "Disclaimer: All opinions expressed below are my own." ??? Who else? How does poor legalese help your story? I swear: nobody will sue you.

I learnt to be very careful about anything that's about Google and not from Google :)

Actually this is good policy, professionally speaking.

You mentioned that you took some MIT OCW courses, did you actually do the psets and quizzes?

No, I mainly used OCW to go deeper into more advanced dynamic programming and hashing techniques. I was more involved in the Princeton courses and especially Cracking The Coding Interview.

Mind referencing more (all? :D) of the resources you used?

Instead of Google cherry-picking all of the talent out of the pool, why not let them pay corporate taxes, so we can spend the money on education?

If only institutes like CERN had such good HR/recruitment techniques as Google, this world could be a better place.

Not sure how the experience is like as a CERN intern, but you can surely do internships there as a student: https://jobs.web.cern.ch/join-us/students

-- If someone happens to have experience with interning at CERN, I'd love to hear about that :-)

Second hand, but the CERN interns I know were over the moon about it.

Obviously they didn't have the perks of Google because they don't have the sheer cash flow, but they both described it as a fun and interesting place to work, with an entertaining social side among the employees.

What languages did you find yourself coding in?

Web stuff, Python and Go

I must admit I'll drown a bit if I check all the comments, so I'm not sure if this has already been said.

IMHO, the author is playing the "I like you very much and I'm going to be agreeable with just about everything you say and do, so you won't go wrong if you pick me to come back" game. At least they're demonstrating they have a good understanding of social networking.

This reads like it's supposed to be an experience review, but it's incredibly over-positive and unbalanced/unfair. There are no real negatives mentioned. So I can only experience it as "I want to come back very much".

That the author has gone to this extent (and only mentioned their successes) suggests either insecurity (impostor syndome) or - likelier - fear they won't be accepted back. The author did mention that their reviewers showed them some instances where they went wrong, I'm wondering if this is the main reason for this or whether it was simply the overwhelming environment.


On another note, since everyone's added their opinions of actually working at Google I might as well join in.

First of all, I took a look at the link noted in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13086051 and I don't agree with any of the points raised in there; most of that article can be adequately explained as conspiracy theory and provocation/incitation, I don't think the points they raise (and attempt to inflame) have much substance.

That said, I do have some concerns of my own.

The issue that's likeliest to have the biggest practical impact for me personally is that I have absolutely no foundation in math, due to the fact that I was born with severe learning difficulties that I only began to correctly identify around 18-22 and which I'm still in the process of learning how to counter for (I'm 26 now).

This means that while I'm well-developed in more areas today than ever, math is an area I'm so far behind on I have zero incentive to catch up because I'd have so much foundational stuff to deal with. For example, I was at the supermarket a few months ago basically pushing all the buttons on my calculator as I couldn't remember what operator(s) to use to figure out how many onions I could buy for the amount of money I had. This wasn't a cognition problem - it was simply the fact that I am that ignorant about math as a subject.

Tackling that to get a compsci job just doesn't seem like a good use of my time since I'll be 40 in a bit over 10 years and it may take me that long (or longer) to catch up. Normal kids to start to learn rudimentary math concepts around 8 or so after all. (I tried, but none of it never made any sense.)

So I definitely appreciated all these pictures, knowing I'll never be likely to call a place like this home.

I most also admit I'm more than a little jealous at the "nearly free" store - I could certainly do with changing my trend of having computers that are always 10 years old (my very limited disability support pension prevents me from legally getting a job, while diagnosis and ongoing treatment are unbelievably expensive!). Consistently old tech is one of the major reasons I haven't been able to springboard myself off of my pension and get a job - I've always been incredibly fascinated with animation, the visual arts, 3D, etc, and I'm on computers that swap like mad if I have more than 3 or 4 browser tabs open.

Beyond these issues, there's the very tricky problem of the fact that Google isn't a startup, and I can't say I'm too enthused by the fact that it's generally frowned upon to want to define your own job title - I can see this stifling a lot of innovation (Google Reader, Google Wave, etc) that isn't an immediately apparent hit.

For perhaps obvious reasons I've grown up always looking at the long view, and Google's corporate culture seems to have a very short attention span.

Nobody is likely to ever read this but I thought I'd leave this here as a real-world example of why someone might not be a good fit for an environment like Google.

If someone from Google ever wants to prove me wrong I'd be very happy to hear about it! :D

"It’s Googley to stand up for diversity and inclusion, such as protesting against binary gendering on toilets"

This is BS.

99.99% of the world is find with the 'binary signage' on toilets, and it is absolutely not 'anti trans' or 'anti anyone else' frankly, to do so.

BTW - this is not like a 1960's movement - you're not in the 'right side of history' here. 'Binary Gender' is, and will always be normative, simply because almost everyone is binary, and is fine with it. The number of people who actually have issues with 'binary' is very, very small. Even most people who are trans are still 'binary' (!) i.e. they identify as one gender or the other, not anything in between.

I somehow doubt that 'it's Googley' to be this, this may be a little bit of a stretch, or 'mis-articulation' by the author.

Though I don't have a problem at all with someone who is 'anti gender binary' (I don't really care) - I do have a problem with a company that pushes social extremism as part of their culture. It's just more evidence of the culty behaviour at Google.

I make a hobby of studying cults. I used to go into the Scientology clinic to 'take the test' and kind of debate with them, to get an understanding of how they are. I used to read a lot of their stuff - not for the 'knowledge' but to grasp the nature of the organization.

These kinds of 'ideals' are actually far more about creating a coherent group, than projecting any ideals.

Google is a good company, generally, but they do some nefarious things with our data. One of the great things about having a 'we are morally superior' cult, is that any decision made by Google that can feasibly be considered unethical - won't be, using the internal logic of 'We don't do evil, so, what we are doing cannot be evil'.

Anyhow, it takes working at several companies for a while to start to figure this out.

For someone who doesn't care much about toilet signage, you sure care a lot about toilet signage.

You misread, or I miscommunicated my statement: I don't care about 'signage'.

If Google has a practical reason to have special signage, all the power to them.

I care about the 'social ethos unwittingly imbued on people' as a function of an aggressive culture.

The signage is an artifact of the culture, as implied by the author it's 'Googly', i.e. 'these are the values that we must have' - which may have nothing to do with the workplace, but more to do with projecting ideology.

If an Atheist was required to have 'morning prayer' at a company ... would this be acceptable? I mean, why should an Atheist care? It's just a bunch of words that would effectively have no meaning to them? Of course, it wouldn't be right to have 'prayer', per say, as a 'cultural requirement' unless it was a religious org, or special in that manner. Imagine being the only one at your company who 'doesn't do it' ... you'd be the Black Sheep surely.

Google may have an over-representation of people with gender ID issues, and may very well just have some pragmatic solutions, like 'individual bathrooms' that are just marked as 'bathrooms'. This seems like a rather good solution to me, and avoids the ideological issues entirely. There's no argument needed, anywhere. But to specifically foster 'anti gender binary ideals' as part of the culture is wrong.

My guess is the author is projecting is own ideals onto what 'Googly' means.

Ask someone 'what Burning Man means' - and you get 1000 different answers. Most of them 'authoritative'. :).

This is all a bit intersectionalist for me. I'm having a hard time keeping track. Are they asking people to pray to the toilet signage? I think I might be right there with you on that one.

You sound like you're the one grappling with "gender ID issues".

There are other places for trolling and ad-hominem.

Moreover, you're likely unwittingly helping me make my point.

Speaking as a genderqueer engineer at Google, I'm really glad to work with supportive cis colleagues. I'm sorry that you take such a negative view, but at least for me, as someone who has rarely felt included in tech, it's a tremendous relief to be here.

If going to great measures to make sure people who break the mold feel comfortable constitutes "social extremism", well, I'm glad we're extreme.

What does it mean to be 'included in tech' ?

It means that software (the product, not the community) tends to offer a binary choice for gender and a lack of gender-neutral forms of address (I go by Mx.). It means that the conversations around gender in tech tend to reflexively focus on "women" with "men" as their opposite, both essentializing gender and reinforcing a fictional dichotomy. It means being able to come to work dressed the way I want to dress without someone complaining that my leggings are revealing when half the office is in Lululemon (yes, that actually happened). It means that I can ask other people to respect my pronouns and feel supported by management and colleagues rather than feel afraid to speak up.

In other words, it means a hell of a lot.

Your tight leggings create a bulge of your genitalia, societal norms don't yet accommodate the visual enhancing of the penis or vagina such that they are prominently displayed. Unfortunately the penis/scrotum are much more bulgey than the vagina.

But by trying to pretend that it's ok for the 'other half' but not you, you're failing to advance your argument - which is that people should get comfortable with your package being prominently displayed. Because to you it is the equivalent of an ass/breasts/pecs being enhanced in some way?

Look I'm all for drinking kosher soda. It doesn't affect me. Having to adopt my language to accommodate every minority group (of which there is an infinite number) is just too heavy a cognitive load with zero benefit to me. It benefits my friends who ask me but I refuse and ask them to instead accommodate my not wanting to. And I think that's fair?

Is it really that difficult to address people how they wish to be addressed?

If someone said to you, "Please call me Matt" do you respond with "But your birth certificate says Matthew! How am I supposed to handle this cognitive load? What's the benefit for me, Matthew?"

"Matt is coming with us. He said he'd be at four. Jemima is also coming they said they'd be here at five."

Matt is coming at five? No Jemima is coming at five. Matt is coming at four. Also Sarah is coming with her partner Zoe. Ze said ze would be here at 4 also zey're getting a ride with Matt.

Umm. Ok.

Not to mention that now when I talk about women, I have to also consider every other gender non binary person as requested by OP. He doesn't want it to be essentialized and pragmatically to be inclusive one has to therefore moderate all language relating to gender.

That is a significant cognitive load and I wish people would stop pretending it's simple. I live around and have friends who are trans/binary non gender people and it's hard work keeping up.

If you don't quite remember, or are unsure about, their preferred pronoun, it doesn't matter. Really, don't sweat it.

What we're trying to tell you here isn't "you should concentrate harder, learn it by rote, and never ever say it wrong". Rather: "just give it as much thought as you'd give someone telling you to call them Dave." No more, because nobody wants to make your life any harder, and any sane person would understand it if you forget. This is a preference, not an imposition.

And also no less, because at the end of the day it's a very little thing for you, and might mean a lot to them.

Grammar and plurals become weird? - You've already given it more thought than I think I'd have :) In my case, because I'm not a native speaker, I would have probably messed the grammar anyway.

Not sure what's your point. wsh91 is explaining how much it means to him/her that at Google we're generally happy to personally do those kinds of "accommodations" (for lack of a better word).

I couldn't care less about any team-mate of mine coming dressed the way they wanted. And I'm not surrounded by "every minority group", so if someone told me tomorrow he rather I use "he"/"she"/whatever when referring to them in public, they'll be the first one and I'll have no problem at all. I might forget some times, but that's fine too. Pronouns are also more of a personal thing than a minority group thing: I don't change my language when I talk to black people, or to white Americans, but if a person asks me, sure, why would I give a damn about language if that makes them feel better.

Thanks for giving a shit. :) (I go by "they".) And I promise that for those of us who are a little different, the effort is what matters.

I gave up reading the comments, but just wanted to say that not everyone thinks like the person who started the thread.

I mean, you know that, but I just wanted to come out and comment here, lest the OP thinks that things like having single-stall bathrooms and keeping your opinions of how others dress to yourself makes one a social extremists.

What can I say - I admire your patience, and glad that there are places where you are not forced to exercise it as often.



Do try to be inclusive when making a point about how happy you are to be inclusive.

I guess for me the question would be "why are you trying to scrutinize my genitalia?" Google is famous for its dress code: "you must wear something." Seems to work out okay for us.

But see that betrays the hypocrisy in the request. Tight fitting clothing highlights the sexual organ. The absence of clothing does the same thing (and yes in the minds of others). Why you are comfortable with google's insistence of clothing but uncomfortable with the request of others to not wear something that has a similar effect?

So whether I'm interested in your genitalia or not is beside the point. You were trying to draw a false equivalence, I wanted you to understand why it was different for you and not 'half of the office'.

I don't think anything I say will convince you that I merit being accorded with dignity, so I'll leave it at this: you're welcome to apply and come try to convince us otherwise! You know where to find us. I recommend Cracking the Coding Interview and lots of whiteboard practice. :)

That's disappointing, I was hoping for a robust defense of your stance and I don't believe I didn't treat you with dignity but I'm sorry if there was a misstep on my part.

p.s. I'm a big fan of Google, they helped me to quit being an employee for good, but I appreciate the advice :)

If your starting position is "you're not worthy of being referred to in accordance with who you are", then I'm not interested in negotiating with you.

I don't quite know what you're implying. If you got rich on our stock, good for you. If you actually used to work here, you are fundamentally different from the people I've met so far and I'm glad you're not here any more.

That's a cheap mischaracterization of my position and probably yours(?)

You'll either learn to appreciate the other parts of the spectrum of thought that exist at google or you'll form cliques.

And I wasn't implying, just responding to your suggestion and advice.

Let me also offer some unsolicited advice - I don't recommend encouraging people to leave because you disagree with them. I also don't recommend assuming to represent google and the thousands of people who work there.

You should try having this conversation with those trans friends you ostensibly have. I can assure you it's not a spectrum, and yours isn't a position so much as a retrograde claim about who I am. I'm not claiming to represent Google but your position is thankfully not one I've heard here. I'm happy to amend the epitaph I'm pretty sure you don't actually have to reflect your opinion, if you'd like.

> 99.99% of the world is find with the 'binary signage' on toilets

[citation needed]

AFAICT, even many people that see gender as binary favor gender-neutral restrooms.

> The number of people who actually have issues with 'binary' is very, very small.

The number of people who identify outside of the classical binary distinction mau be small (or it may be that lots of people simply lack vocabulary to explain non-binary identity, which makes non-binary identity less visible as such), but lots of people whose own identity fit into the traditional binary distinction nevertheless have real problems with the binary view and its normativity.

It's easy to test: remove the entire distinction and have only one type of toilets where everybody can go.

Let this experiment run for a few months.

Then compare the number of people who complain about that experiment with the number of people who complain about binary signage.

I'm betting the former number will dwarf the latter. And no, I don't have a citation for that, just giving my opinion.

The W hotel in downtown Austin, TX has had all of their restrooms in the bar/restaurant area as single-user facilities labeled Men/Women for... ever since it was built, I think. At least 5 years that I can remember. Among other reasons, it efficiently supports conventions with wildly varying gender ratios.

Obviously there is a strong habit of having signs on toilets. But I am unsure why. Sitting toilets are the exact same thing for both genders, there's no reason not to have a bin next to them anyway…

Most homes don't have gendered toilets. Why is that so common at work?

Why do you think the separation was made?

Three big causes:

First, home bathrooms are reliably single-user. Some people are deeply uncomfortable with the idea of sharing a bathroom with people of another gender (though exactly which people they would not want to share with is a complicated question). Interestingly, this seems to be a bigger deal in the US, where our stalls are shoddy and easy to see into.

Second, cleanliness. Mostly, home bathrooms stay clean on a system of "if you make a mess you'll get yelled at". That's not viable in public settings, so gendering helps ensure that there are clean toilet seats for those who need to sit on them. Again, not totally effective, but relevant.

Third, most public and business bathrooms have a bunch of gendered additions which aren't present in homes. Urinals, hygiene/contraceptive vending, and (controversially) changing tables are the big ones.

For a sanity check on that list, think about the public bathrooms that aren't gendered. Single-person bathrooms are often marked male/female/family/disabled, on the grounds that they have a toilet, changing tables, and cause no particular gender issues. Similarly, porta-potties are usually unisex, whether or not they include a urinal. Again, they're single-user and generally filthy no matter who uses them.

So there's a bunch of reasons. But the third - the most objective - doesn't actually require gendered signage. A "facilities" list would be more useful and effective for those issues. The second is a bit ambiguous - gender doesn't seem to be the strongest predictor of bathroom hygiene, and there are options here. The first is the strictly gendered one, but it's actually quite complex! For all the concern of "gender identity doesn't make a person look like they fit here", "gender assigned at birth" is no better at ensuring "only people who look like they belong here". The ways to achieve that would be subjective and probably inconsistent between complainants.

Reasons for signage, then, but not necessarily for gendered signage.

"gender doesn't seem to be the strongest predictor of bathroom hygiene"

It definitely is when you have very few elements to chose from.

When the 'men's' one-ey is 'in use' in Starbucks, I often go into the 'women's' - and it's very consistently cleaner.

It is what it is.

So you're saying we should have binary signed toilets so that you can ignore the signs?


Well I can't speak for anyone else but I'm convinced.

> Urinals, hygiene/contraceptive vending, and (controversially) changing tables are the big ones.

I think I've seen baby-changing tables at all if not most male restrooms at Google.

Urinals... I've never seen another person's trunk when using urinals. I'd get upset if you tried to look at mine no matter your sex or gender. And I'd get as upset as a woman if you showed it like an exhibicionist, even though I have one too. So I think in practice, at Google, urinals wouldn't ultimately matter.

Hygiene and contraceptive vending I can see how people might want to be more private about.

So if 'Binary Gender' is, and will always be normative, simply because almost everyone is binary, I wonder what it might be like to be left-handed. Would you consider it social extremism to treat left-handers, which are a seriously small minority (10%) as actually equal to right-handed, normative, normal folks?

10% is a meaningful minority.

As it stands, the world is mostly made for right-handed people, with a lot of accommodation for lefties.

In very lose terms, the number of people who identify as 'somewhere on the spectrum of gender' is about 0.5% - but this includes a huge amount of people who have a 'feeling' and frankly, are probably ideological about it, i.e. "I don't believe in gender, ergo, I refuse to identify as one".

The actual number of people who truly do not fit in essentially or pragmatically one or the other gender - to the point wherein they would feel uncomfortable going into either a male or female bathroom is extremely small. Remember that even most trans people actually identify with one gender or the other.

So, when > 99.9% of a population 'is something' ... 'it's normative'.

Do you not think its noble to make life better for 0.1% of people?

"Do you not think its noble to make life better for 0.1% of people?"

It's not within reason or pragmatism to change how everyone on the planet refers to gender - and our entire 'bathroom social norms' to accommodate a tiny minority.

Here is a practical, non-ideological solution:

It seems as though every edifice has to provide special facilities for handicapped people.

Change the sign on the handicapped door, to something considerably more generic, like 'a bathroom for whoever' - and then those who are not comfortable with male/female - or for any other reason - can use it.

Now the 99.9% have their bathrooms - and 'everyone else' who doesn't fit perfectly into that paradigm, can use the 'other' facility.

Just by the way, the statement in the article is incorrect. Google Sydney does have male/female toilets, but we have unisex toilets as well.

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